G. K. Beale famously wrote a book titled You are What You Worship. In this work, he makes reference to the book of Isaiah:
“And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; les they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isa 6:9–10).
The idolaters became like the objects they worshiped. God was leaving them to their destructive ways. In the same way, the idols of our hearts shape our lives today. Think about it: those who listen to Heavy Metal deck their bedrooms in band posters, wear t-shirts, and often grow their hair similarly to their favorite stars. Likewise, when people idolize fashion, they spend exquisite amounts of money to look like the latest fashion designs are “in.”
It is as Calvin famously said: “The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols. . . . And daily experience shows that the flesh is always restless until it has obtained some figment like itself, with which it may vainly solace itself as a representation of God.”1Calvin. J. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Tr. Beveridge. H. James Clarke & Co., Limited. London: England. (1962). 97 This was true five-hundred years ago, and it is true now. The only difference is that it is more clearly visible while more heavily denied. Our hearts crave idols and when we give into those cravings, we, step by step, become more and more like those idols.
Knowing this, we must be careful. Every step of life presents risks. Every expression of appreciation and every thought of something we like puts us at risk of falling into idolatry. If we fall once, it is easier to fall again. Eventually, the idol twists our lives into an ugly representation of itself.
There is an alternative though. If we are committed to something else—someone who is worthy of worship—then the story can be different. If we really become more like what we worship, then worshiping a person would surely make us more like that person. School pupils do everything they can to get the attention of the person they want to date, changing their ways and clothes in order to be noticed by the one whom they want.
If we, as Christians, are committed to worshiping our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, then we can become more and more like Him. We know that should be our desire, but does it really take place through worship?
Conformity to Christ
In the middle of his heavy-weight theological epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:29). As Christians, we are predestined to be conformed to Christ. That is an unchangeable reality. If you are in Christ, you have partaken in the fruit of this predestined grace.
Does that mean we enter a state of perfection as soon as we are converted? Not at all. What it means is that we have Christ’s righteousness, secured by His cleansing blood (Heb 9:14). He has taken our sin, paid the price, and transferred His righteousness to our accounts (2 Cor 5:21). We are no longer condemned, because we wear His robes of righteousness. There is still, however, indwelling sin within us. As we live out the Christian life, we are expected to deal with that sin. As the Lord shines more light on our hearts, we are to kill off that sin.
How does His light help us deal with that sin? It begins in our conversion and flows into eternity. Conversion is the pathway to worship. Knowing all He has done for us, all we can do is bow down in reverential worship (Heb 12:28–29). We know we did nothing to earn our salvation and that He is the One who obtained it for us (Rom 5:1). Knowing this, we cannot praise ourselves. We can only come to Christ’s throne, bow down and worship Him for His merciful grace, displayed on the cross. Who/what else is more worthy of our worship? We will soon see how this connects to our sanctification.
How do we know that this righteousness is irremovable from our souls? Paul further tells us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). God will complete in us that which He has begun. Our path to conversion is complete, but that is not the end of the journey. After conversion, we embark on the path to glorification—our final destination. This is sanctification: the process by which we become more holy—more like Christ.
Of course, killing off sin and replacing it with good works is a part of sanctification, but how does that tie into Christocentric worship? The answer is found in how we defeat sin. The idea is quite simple. We cannot simply say no to temptation and leave it at that. Doing so leaves us bound to fall into temptation once again. Instead, we need to rewire our hearts’ desires.
What better way to do that than worshiping Jesus? Knowing all He has done to secure and persevere us by His grace, what more can we do than spill forth praise to His glorious name? If we train ourselves to worship Him in those times of temptation, we will do a lot better at mortifying our sin.
Paul gives us this principle as he calls us to put off evil and put on good (Eph 4:22–24). Do you struggle with lustful thoughts, tempting you to view pornography? Have you wondered how to slay this beast? Do you find yourself pridefully thinking about how wonderful you are, thinking about all the conversations other people must be having about you? Do you find yourself greedily thinking about how you can do things for your own benefit while others go without?
How can we deal with all this sin? The answer is simple, yet profound. We put on Christ. We remember His sacrifice for our sin in these moments and replace those thoughts and feelings by worshiping Him according to those truths. This is the pathway that brings us through sanctification and draws us closer to Him. Worshiping Jesus is exceedingly beneficial for our souls and of great practical value.
As we worship Him more and more, we will find ourselves able to put off more and more sin as we grow in holiness. There will be less room for sin and more room for growth. As we worship Him we become more like Him.
The end of our road is glorification. When death looms and swallows us in its embrace, we will finally meet our Savior face to face. There we will no longer be tempted and never sin against Him again. Why? Because His glory will be before us. We will want nothing else. Even if that were not enough, the very memory of everything we suffered in this life because of sin will be enough to remind us of why we should not rebel again.
The fact is, we will have tasted enough of Him in this life that we want nothing more with the world. He will have proven Himself to be the delight of our souls. We will do everything we can to please Him for His unconditional love, unbreakable through the bonds of our heavenly espousal (Rev 19:6–10). He will forever be the object of our desires and we will live to give Him honor and praise. Worthy is He to receive such esteem.
At the moment of glorification we will be as much like Him as possible. Everything He is in His human nature will be shared by us. We will never sin, we will only worship. Truly, we will have finally become like the One we worship.
Our goals in this life are to be like Christ and to worship Him. Those two things are inseparable. To want to be like Him is to worship Him and to worship Him is to want to be like Him. This gorgeously woven tapestry should influence us to do both with all the more vigor. Do we want to beat sin? Let us worship Him. Do we want to grow in Sanctification? Let us worship Him. Do we want to please Him? Let us worship Him with all the holy passion and might He has enabled us to muster. If we worship Him, then we will become like what we worship.
|1||Calvin. J. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Tr. Beveridge. H. James Clarke & Co., Limited. London: England. (1962). 97|